Film review: GLORIA, from Built For Speed

Most films are aimed at particular demographics: Hollywood blockbusters pander to 14 year old boys and teen lit adaptations to adolescent females. Chilean film Gloria, is that rare commodity, a film aimed at women aged over 40.

Falling somewhere between relationship drama, oddball comedy and self-empowerment parable, the film sees 50-something divorcee Gloria (Paulina Garcia) awkwardly attempting to re-enter the dating scene.  After a couple of dinner-date disasters, she encounters amusement park owner Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez) and the attraction is immediate. A burgeoning romance is thwarted, though, by the constant intrusions of Rodolfo’s excessively needy ex-wife and daughters.  Gloria’s fracturing relationship with Rodolfo soon drives her to reckless behaviours, such as lurking around pick-up joints, smoking drugs and engaging in embarrassing disco dancing.

Movie-goers hoping for escapist thrills should look elsewhere as Gloria is a slow-moving, superficially uneventful film with nothing that could be termed a dramatic peak. Instead, the film focuses on the gradual awakening of dormant traits within Gloria and her attempt to establish an independent life for herself.   In an assured performance, Paulina Garcia, who’s in just about every shot, quietly conveys a mix of resilience and growing desperation as her life (at one point literally) begins to spin out of control. With the focus on Gloria, however, the supporting cast have few opportunities to establish their characters and their performances seem merely functional.

The film has gained notoriety for Gloria and Rodolfo’s explicit nudity and sex scenes.  Impressively, the film introduces these scenes with little fanfare and has no qualms about displaying sagging middle-aged flesh. Less impressively, the film occasionally indulges in glaringly obvious symbolism such as the onset of Gloria’s glaucoma which very clumsily signifies her deteriorating world view. 

This film’s muted tone and glacial pace will have many audience members checking their watches but those who can more readily identify with Gloria’s situation will no doubt find this a touching and insightful experience.

Nick’s rating: ***

Genre: Drama.

Classification: MA.

Director(s): Sebastián Lelio.

Release date: 27th Feb 2014.

Running time: 110 mins.

Reviewer: Nick Gardener can be heard on “Built For Speed” every Friday night from 8-10pm right here on 88.3 Southern FM.  Nick can also be heard on “The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Film Show” podcast. 

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